In many African countries, women do 60-80% of the farming, but the vast majority do not own or have direct access to or control over land. Women who have secure land rights contribute a greater proportion of household income; have greater control over that income; and are more likely to receive financial credit. And, with secure land rights, women gain a greater say in household decisions, which often results in improved health and education of their children.
Enhanced status derived from land rights can also lessen women's vulnerability to domestic violence, and empower them to more effectively participate in civic life. Ultimately, secure land rights for women resonate in positive and powerful ways throughout a community and country.
But there are many barriers to women's secure land rights, including legal, socioeconomic and cultural factors. Laws may discriminate.
Nondiscriminatory laws may not be implemented, or may be undermined by other laws, such as those affecting marriage and inheritance. In addition, customary practices that discriminate against women may more directly impact women's lives than statutory law. Overcoming such barriers is essential to development that improves the lives of women and Africa's rural poor.